California company using animals to reduce wildfire dangers

Good Shepherds’ army of around 125 goats and sheep can eat more than a quarter of an acre a day

SAN DIEGO – A company in Southern California is hoping that their environmentally-friendly alternative to ridding the terrain of vegetation will reduce the threat of wildfires, especially during what is expected to be a busy season for The Golden State.

Good Shepherds was co-founded around a year ago by Matthew Sablove and his wife Angelica Barrera, and since its inception, the team said it has been busy moving sheep and goats to where his clients need the help.

The San Diego-based company has around 125 animals that it moves from site to site with the ultimate goal of reducing the wildfire risk by getting rid of grasses and other small brush that can act like a tinderbox during dry conditions.

"We just started building our relationship with the fire department and Cal Fire. They are really interested in working with us on projects," Sablove said.


Sablove said his animals can graze more than a quarter of an acre a day, reducing brush and getting rid of potentially invasive species, which can help against the fire threat and make an area more appealing.

The use of animals to reduce fire-prone vegetation in California is not a new concept. Austin knows of around a dozen other groups, but many are based in the northern parts of the state versus areas where he is targeting.

"For how much land there is, there is nothing," Sablove said. 

The entrepreneur believes that wild animals used to do some of the grazing but aren’t part of the natural process any longer because human developments forced them out of their environments, leaving brush to grow without interference. 

"We don’t have any more of the longhorn sheep or the deer that would graze and be part of the ecosystem," Sablove said.

Sablove said his company has enough tasks lined up to keep his animals busy grazing through the end of the year but is always looking for those large projects that could end up making a big dent to the potential wildfire fuels.

The clearing of brush and vegetation away from homes and business isn't just smart thinking, it's the law in California

Property owners must keep 100 feet from buildings clear of brush that could threaten their property during a fire.

CAL Fire says by clearing materials from around homes and businesses, the effort can help slow the progress of an approaching wildfire and create protections for firefighters while they defend the property.